Prior to free agency I narrowed down five guys I thought might make some sense for the Vikings to target. Two of them received reported interest from Minnesota and one of them actually ended up signing, so I’m feeling all full of glee about that, and want to give it another shot.
The second wave of free agency is still in progress with a number of higher end players still hanging out there (especially in the aging pass rusher department), but let’s get a jump start on looking for some bargains in the basement. Here are five that I’d consider:
5. Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Age 31
Let me start out by saying that I assume the Vikings will go into camp with four quarterbacks, which means they still need to add two. While I don’t feel as comfortable saying this with certainty, I do think there is a good chance the Vikings part ways with Christian Ponder before training camp, and that would leave them needing to add yet another quarterback.
The Titans released quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick this week at the age of 31. Fitzpatrick started nine games for the Titans last season, with Jake Locker missing time due to injury, and fared pretty well. He threw for 14 touchdowns on a 62% completion percentage, ran the ball pretty well which included three more scores, and misfired on 12 interceptions.
Like Matt Cassel, the Vikings wouldn’t be getting a franchise quarterback by signing Fitzpatrick, but they would be getting a dependable and experienced veteran that is sure to be relatively inexpensive. If the Vikings are really going to draft their franchise quarterback this May, then I’d rather have Cassel and Fitzpatrick ushering him into the NFL than an eager-to-move-on Christian Ponder.
4. James Starks, RB, Age 28
The running back market has been moving slow, thus far, but I’m surprised that James Starks hasn’t generated a little more interest. Starks’ time in Green Bay essentially proved he isn’t an every-down starter, but he equally proved his worth as a third down back that knows how to catch a football and can be a dependable blocker.
Starks is coming off of a really strong year, despite the emergence of Eddie Lacy, and he averaged a very respectable 5.5 yards per carry and a career high three touchdowns. Over four seasons, Starks has caught 45 passes for 351 yards and a touchdown. He is obviously capable of playing outdoors, has a familiarity with the NFC North, and should see his durability concerns limit his salary demands.
I guess I’m saying is: I’d rather him be Adrian Peterson’s primary backup than Eddie Lacy’s.
3. Corey Wootton, DE, Age 26
The Vikings starting defensive line looks to be forming up quite nicely, but the next step has to be to add quality players to the rotation, just as it looked like they were trying to do with Henry Melton. Actually, behind Everson Griffen and Brian Robison, there isn’t much in the way of depth at defensive end.
It’s a little mysterious that Corey Wootton hasn’t gotten more attention on the open market. After a slow start to his career, Wootton seemed to flourish in 2012 when he posted seven sacks and played all 16 games. In 2013, however, the Bears experienced injury problems at defensive tackle and Wootton was forced to slide inside where he was out of position, but doing his best.
Wootton is a decent run-stopping defensive end that could occasionally surprise a few offensive tackles with his pass rush. He has experiencing moving around the defensive line and is relatively young, so I think he could just be the perfect compliment to Everson Griffen on our defensive line.
2. Pat Angerer, MLB, Age 27
The Vikings are preparing to have middle linebacker be the second most-watched positional battle in training camp. They might as well keep throwing names into the mix.
Angerer was looking to be one of the top young linebackers on the rise through his first two NFL seasons, but injuries derailed his ascension in 2012 and once again showed up in 2013. Angerer had to have knee surgery in December, but he recently said he should be ready to practice in June or July, so he could make it into training camp just in time to make a case for himself.
At the very least, it might be a good idea for the Vikings to bring the free agent in for a visit and let head trainer Eric Sugarman start a file on him, because there are no promises that middle linebacker won’t still be a need this time next year.
1. Chris Clemons, S, Age 28
With Harrison Smith intimidating the heck out of any of our opponents, it sure would be nice to solidify the other safety spot, preferably with someone that can cover deep. Chris Clemons has been a solid safety in his five seasons with the Dolphins. He has also been quite durable, which is the most underrated quality a safety can possess in my mind.
Clemons isn’t going to blow you away with his interception totals or huge hits, but he is a veteran that knows how to play the game with consistency, and would be a great compliment for Smith as Mike Zimmer tries to dig this defense out of the gutter.